What are the receptacle outlet spacing rules for kitchen countertops?
Here are the basics: A receptacle outlet needs to be installed on each wall countertop or work space that is 12 inches or wider. This makes sense because even a 12-in. space can accommodate a toaster, coffeemaker or other small appliance. Receptacle outlets need to be installed so that no point along the wall line is more than 24-inches measured horizontally from a receptacle outlet in that space. In other words, an appliance with a 24-in. cord could be placed anywhere along the countertop, and the supply cord could reach a receptacle outlet in either direction.
Countertop spaces interrupted or separated by built-in rangetops, sinks, refrigerators or similar are considered separate countertop spaces. At least one receptacle outlet needs to be installed at each island countertop space, where the island measures 24 inches or greater in the long dimension and at least 12 inches or greater in the short dimension.
- A receptacle outlet must not be installed in a face-up position in or on a countertop surface unless it’s approved specifically for the purpose.
- Receptacle outlets that are not readily accessible do not qualify as the required receptacle outlets (for example if they are blocked by appliances fastened in place, they are inside an appliance garage, they are behind a sink, rangetop or other appliance that is occupying dedicated space, etc.). In other words, you may need to install additional receptacle outlets to make sure the minimum quantity of receptacle outlets are readily accessible.For people with physical impairments, receptacle outlets are permitted to be located not more than 12-inches below the countertop or work surface. Such receptacle outlets must not be located where the countertop or work surface extends more than 6-inches beyond the supporting base, such as an extended snack bar or lunch counter.
- And for obvious reasons, receptacle outlets are permitted to be located the same as for people with physical impairments outlined above because most islands and peninsulas have flat work surfaces with no location suitable for the mounting of a receptacle outlet. This is actually the most common application.
Click here to find out the requirements on islands and peninsulas.
Looking ahead to the 2020 National Electrical Code (NEC)
And just when you thought we had smooth sailing around our islands and peninsulas, the 2020 NEC is going to change the way we calculate countertop spaces. The 2020 NEC is scheduled to be published in September of 2019. A proposed revision looks like it will most definitely be part of the new code. Instead of measuring the long and short dimensions of the countertop work surface for the purpose of determining the minimum quantity of receptacle outlets, the total square footage of the countertop work surface will be used to determine the minimum number of receptacle outlets. At least one receptacle outlet will be required for every 9-square feet (or fraction thereof). An additional receptacle outlet will be required for every additional 18-square feet (or fraction thereof) of countertop work space. At least one receptacle outlet will be required to be located within 24-inches of the outer end of a peninsula countertop work surface. Stayed tuned for more information.
Always check with your local electrical inspector about the specific code requirements in your area.
Question Answered by John Williamson, Chief Electrical Inspector, Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry
John Williamson has been in the electrical industry for 40 years and is a licensed master electrician and certified building official. John has worked for the state of Minnesota for over 23 years and is the Chief Electrical Inspector. For the past 25 years John has also provided electrical code consultation to various book and magazine publishers.
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